Learning Guide: Fourth Grade
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Learning Guide: Fourth Grade

With peer pressure kicking in this year, your child seeks independence but still needs your loving guidance.

Portrait of a Fourth Grader

Fourth graders worry: "Did I pass that test? Does this person like me?" They can separate fact from fantasy, but they tend to make mountains out of molehills. Kids this age search for perfection. They don't like creative activities as much as before because there are too many options. They w ant a ruler, a pencil and instructions to make a square. They have concerns about family, too, and may worry about the family's security. Some begin waking up at night, wandering around the house. Peers are the guiding force now, causing your child to insist on independence from you. But not all of his decisions will be wise ones, and as he responds to peer pressure in matters of dress and behavior, he still needs your firm guidance.

What your child will learn

In many states, fourth grade is a year of extensive standardized testing. Everywhere, it is a pivotal point for independent academics. Your child no longer needs constant teacher guidance; he'll be asked to complete complex homework and class assignments, including writing reports and organizing presentations. Students are now going to be developing important skills such as researching, investigating and thinking critically about what they have learned. They may be asked to read sources with differing points of view -- and to evaluate the validity of those views. In math, he'll be exposed to -- and if all goes well, master -- long division. Many schools offer courses geared to peer pressure and discuss the social and physical consequences of using drugs and alcohol, and smoking.

In the Classroom

Teachers will show students how to...

  • Learn more complex oral presentation skills (explaining and presenting stories, puns, riddles, anecdotes and plays); make oral presentations without notes.
  • Use the dictionary to determine word meanings and pronunciations; Use encyclopedias, CD-ROMS and the Internet to locate information; use maps, globes, pictures, diagrams and complicated graphs.
  • Summarize a story with the book closed; arrange events in sequential order without signal words (like first and second); compare and contrast works of different authors; begin to understand metaphor, imagery, and flashbacks.
  • Learn simple research concepts for writing papers; learn to delete superfluous information; differentiate between figurative and literal language; follow more complex plots.
  • Round numbers to the nearest ten and hundred; add and subtract decimals to hundredths; order, compare and use numbers through millions; divide numbers using long division; multiply two and three-digit numbers; add and subtract fractions.
  • Solve multi-step math word problems, using metric and U.S. standard units; understand and be able to calculate area and perimeter; identify parallel and perpendicular lines and right, acute and obtuse angles.
  • Discuss structure of local, state and federal government; identify executive, legislative and judicial functions.
  • Learn ways in which plants and animals protect themselves; learn to predict events (like storms) from a trend in data.
  • Be able to articulate what you do to solve a math problem, and why.

7 Ways You Can Help

  1. Help your child read train and bus schedules and road maps. Pose real-life problems: "What's the best route to Washington, D.C.? If I have to be at work by 9, which train should I take?"
  2. When shopping, have your child read labels to determine ingredients; compare prices of different brands so you stay within your grocery budget.
  3. Buy a toolbox and equip it with a few measuring instruments. Give your child a project he can complete on his own.
  4. Keep communication lines open. Don't allow him to hide behind the question, "How was school?" with the one-word retort: "Fine." Follow up by saying, "Tell me three things you learned today in school."
  5. Stay in touch with your child's teacher during any rough academic or social experiences he may go through.
  6. Assign consequences, like the withdrawal of privileges, for inappropriate behavior. Although your child is growing up, he still needs you to set limits.
  7. Talk to your child about problem solving. Discuss issues in your life and how you attempt to resolve them. Encourage him to problem-solve with you.

What the Experts Say

"The move to fourth grade can be difficult. Kids often find the work more challenging. The curriculum is more focused, the books are thicker, there are fewer pictures. By this grade, students are expected to be reading to learn, not learning to read. Parents' support is crucial." Darrell Rud, President, National Association of Elementary School Principals, 2001-2002